Friday, October 30, 2009

The One-Minute Apologist: Errors in the Paperback First Edition Detailed and Corrected

[originally discovered by my friend John O'Connor; my additional clarifications are in blue; errors in the paperback are in red; corrections are in green]

Page 5 — Footnote #8 cites “Acts 16:14.” This should be “Acts 16:4” instead.

Page 23 — Footnote #2 references 1 Cor 13:1; the actual footnote on page 22 refers, in fact, to 1 Cor 14:1.

Page 29 — Reference to Luke 2:42 near the middle of the page should be, instead, Acts 2:42.

Page 29 — Reference #6 cites Rom 16:17 for a reference to “quarreling.” The word does not appear in that verse. Most likely, it is meant to be Rom 13:13, but perhaps Titus 3:2 or 2 Cor 12:20. I probably had in mind Romans 13:13, but the previous two references mentioned also contain the word, as do 1 Cor 1:11 and 1 Tim 2:8. 1 Tim 3:3 and 2 Tim 2:24 have "quarrelsome", while 2 Tim 2:23 and Titus 3:9 mention "quarrels" -- all in a most negative fashion. Clearly, Paul has no patience for quarrels, and considers them to be serious sins. So my point is amply confirmed, though I erred in my lone citation in the book.

Page 35 — Footnotes #6 and #7 are transposed. Footnote #6 should be Acts 10:1-6 to correspond to the text on pg. 34 (“angel tells Cornelius to ask Peter…”); Footnote #7 should be 2 Peter 1:16–21 to correspond to the text (“Peter authoritatively interprets prophecy”).

Page 60-61 — Footnote #2 reads [Hebrews] “14:18” and “16:7” These are not references to the Epistle of Hebrews as indicated; instead, they are Revelation references — Rev 14:18; 16:7.

Page 79 — Under footnote #5, the reference to 2 John should, specifically, be 2 John 8. I probably should have made the cross-reference more specifically to 2 John 1:5-8, as all those verses have some application to the subject at hand: merit.

Page 81 — Footnote #2 is wrong: [Galatians] “10:12” cannot refer to Galatians because there are only six chapters in that book. I was mistakenly referring again to 1 Cor 10:12. To follow the method of most of the other adjoining footnotes (staying in the same book), the footnote should have been to Galatians 4:9: "but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more?" Other passages not mentioned here, that could have been, include 1 Sam 11:6; 18:11-12; Ezek 18:24; 33:12-13, 18; Col 1:23 ("provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard"); and Heb 6:11-12 (" show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end").

Page 98 — The reference “cf Jn 2:9” (Under “Who raised Jesus from the dead?”—Jesus Christ) refers to the wedding feast of Cana. The actual reference should be to John 2:19: "Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.'"

Page 101 — Under the question toward top of page, “Who is speaking to the Churches in Revelation 2 and 3”–under “Jesus Christ” the reference Rev 12:6 refers to the woman in the wilderness. This was a strange mistake. It should be Rev 2:18: ". . . The words of the Son of God . . ."

Page 110-111 — Footnote #2 refers to Luke 10:29 as an instance where the word for “brother” (Gr. adelphos) is used, translated in this case as “neighbor”. I find that the actual Greek word used is plesion. This was an unfortunate and ultimately erroneous reference because it is not adelphos in Greek (though at that point in the text I wasn't yet referring specifically to adelphos. In any event, adelphos does indeed have a very wide latitude in meaning, as seen in the instances given in the immediate context. Examples of a use roughly equivalent to "neighbor" are numerous; for example: Matt 5:22-24; 7:3-5; 18:15; Acts 1:16 (Peter talking to about 120 people); Acts 22:1 (Paul addressing the Jewish accusers at his trial); 1 Jn 2:9-11; 3:10, 15; 4:20-21; 5:16, etc.

Likewise with Footnote #6—“disciples” is indicated to be the Greek word adelphos. In fact, however, it is the Greek mathetes. This is, unfortunately, true with regard to Matthew 23:1, but not for the other two references: Matt 12:49-50 and John 20:17. Again, it was a case of my blowing one particular reference but not at all being wrong in the general concept or argument being set forth (which is the far more important consideration). Jesus' use of "brethren" or "brothers" for His own disciples (both the twelve and the larger sense of "follower" or Christian), is common: Matt 12:48; 23:8; Mk 1:33-35; Lk 22:32.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Antidote to John Calvin's Institutes (IV,14:16-26) [Sacraments (General) / Two Sacraments Only? / Sign & Seal Only? / Circumcision]

See the introduction and links to all installments at the top of my John Calvin, Calvinism, and General Protestantism web page; also the online version of the Institutes. Calvin's words will be in blue throughout. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.

* * * * *

Book IV



16. Previous views more fully explained.

If this is obscure from brevity,


I will explain it more at length.

Brevity is preferred where error is concerned, not only for the patience of the reader, but also for the spiritual sake of the writer . . .

I say that Christ is the matter, or, if you rather choose it, the substance of all the sacraments, since in him they have their whole solidity, and out of him promise nothing.

How ironic that Calvin states this, while at the same time denying that Christ is present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity (i.e., physically and substantially) in the Holy Eucharist.

Hence the less toleration is due to the error of Peter Lombard, who distinctly makes them causes of the righteousness and salvation of which they are parts (Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 1). Bidding adieu to all other causes of righteousness which the wit of man devises, our duty is to hold by this only. In so far, therefore, as we are assisted by their instrumentality in cherishing, confirming, and increasing the true knowledge of Christ, so as both to possess him more fully, and enjoy him in all his richness, so far are they effectual in regard to us. This is the case when that which is there offered is received by us in true faith. Therefore, you will ask, Do the wicked, by their ingratitude, make the ordinance of God fruitless and void? I answer, that what I have said is not to be understood as if the power and truth of the sacrament depended on the condition or pleasure of him who receives it.

To a large extent, this (particularly the final sentence) is in agreement with the Catholic position, as explicated in the previous several sections. Other errors here are very subtle, and so we'll let them pass for the moment. A Catholic feels a bit like a mosquito in a nudist colony when dealing with Calvin: the errors (like flesh in the analogy) are so all-pervasive and multitudinous, one scarcely knows where to go -- what to refute -- first.

That which God instituted continues firm, and retains its nature, however men may vary; but since it is one thing to offer, and another to receive, there is nothing to prevent a symbol, consecrated by the word of the Lord, from being truly what it is said to be, and preserving its power, though it may at the same time confer no benefit on the wicked and ungodly.

Again, we see significant resemblance to ex opere operato, though Calvin strongly rejects the latter. It is probably the case, once again, that Calvin is rejecting (at least partially) a straw man, so that he fails to see the similarities.

This question is well solved by Augustine in a few words: “If you receive carnally, it ceases not to be spiritual, but it is not spiritual to you” (August. Hom. in Joann. 26). But as Augustine shows in the above passages that a sacrament is a thing of no value if separated from its truth; so also, when the two are conjoined, he reminds us that it is necessary to distinguish, in order that we may not cleave too much to the external sign. “As it is servile weakness to follow the latter, and take the signs for the thing signified, so to interpret the signs as of no use is an extravagant error” (August. de Doct. Christ. Lib. 3 c. 9). He mentions two faults which are here to be avoided; the one when we receive the signs as if they had been given in vain, and by malignantly destroying or impairing their secret meanings, prevent them from yielding any fruit—the other, when by not raising our minds beyond the visible sign, we attribute to it blessings which are conferred upon us by Christ alone, and that by means of the Holy Spirit, who makes us to be partakers of Christ, external signs assisting if they invite us to Christ; whereas, when wrested to any other purpose, their whole utility is overthrown.

As always, when reading St. Augustine the Neo-Platonist talking about signs, we need to understand that it is not in such a fashion as to exclude the physical presence in the Holy Eucharist of the Body and Blood of Christ. In other words, the terminology of sign is not antithetical to literalness and physicality.

17. The matter of the sacrament always present when the sacrament is duly administered.

Wherefore, let it be a fixed point, that the office of the sacraments differs not from the word of God; and this is to hold forth and offer Christ to us, and, in him, the treasures of heavenly grace. They confer nothing, and avail nothing, if not received in faith, just as wine and oil, or any other liquor, however large the quantity which you pour out, will run away and perish unless there be an open vessel to receive it.

In some sense, then, Calvin agrees that grace is conveyed. But in other places he seems to deny this; so there is a certain internal tension and contradiction in his sacramentology that is often observed.

When the vessel is not open, though it may be sprinkled all over, it will nevertheless remain entirely empty. We must be aware of being led into a kindred error by the terms, somewhat too extravagant, which ancient Christian writers have employed in extolling the dignity of the sacraments.

In English, he is saying, "the fathers were wrong en masse; the Catholic Church of the centuries is wrong, and I am right." When we realize exactly what Calvin's departures from precedent entail, it sounds rather silly and arrogant, in roughly equal measure.

We must not suppose that there is some latent virtue inherent in the sacraments by which they, in themselves, confer the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon us, in the same way in which wine is drunk out of a cup, since the only office divinely assigned them is to attest and ratify the benevolence of the Lord towards us; and they avail no farther than accompanied by the Holy Spirit to open our minds and hearts, and make us capable of receiving this testimony, in which various distinguished graces are clearly manifested. For the sacraments, as we lately observed (chap. 13 sec. 6; and 14 sec. 6, 7), are to us what messengers of good news are to men, or earnests in ratifying pactions. They do not of themselves bestow any grace,

Here we have the other strain of Calvin's thought, which is "anti-sacramental" from a Catholic perspective, insofar as he denies ex opere operato and the bestowal of grace. He takes the aspect of the individual disposition too far.

but they announce and manifest it, and, like earnests and badges, give a ratification of the gifts which the divine liberality has bestowed upon us. The Holy Spirit, whom the sacraments do not bring promiscuously to all, but whom the Lord specially confers on his people, brings the gifts of God along with him, makes way for the sacraments, and causes them to bear fruit. But though we deny not that God, by the immediate agency of his Spirit, countenances his own ordinance, preventing the administration of the sacraments which he has instituted from being fruitless and vain, still we maintain that the internal grace of the Spirit, as it is distinct from the external ministration, ought to be viewed and considered separately. God, therefore, truly performs whatever he promises and figures by signs; nor are the signs without effect, for they prove that he is their true and faithful author. The only question here is, whether the Lord works by proper and intrinsic virtue (as it is called), or resigns his office to external symbols? We maintain, that whatever organs he employs detract nothing from his primary operation. In this doctrine of the sacraments, their dignity is highly extolled, their use plainly shown, their utility sufficiently proclaimed, and moderation in all things duly maintained; so that nothing is attributed to them which ought not to be attributed, and nothing denied them which they ought to possess. Meanwhile, we get rid of that fiction by which the cause of justification and the power of the Holy Spirit are included in elements as vessels and vehicles,

In other words, he is denying intrinsic sacramental grace and ex opere operato . . .

and the special power which was overlooked is distinctly explained. Here, also, we ought to observe, that what the minister figures and attests by outward action, God performs inwardly, lest that which God claims for himself alone should be ascribed to mortal man.

The men are merely instruments of God's grace, as Catholics understand perfectly well. But Calvin's either/or mentality and anti-sacerdotalism has to inevitably set the instrument (man) over against the Ultimate Cause and Source (God).

This Augustine is careful to observe: “How does both God and Moses sanctify? Not Moses for God, but Moses by visible sacraments through his ministry, God by invisible grace through the Holy Spirit. Herein is the whole fruit of visible sacraments; for what do these visible sacraments avail without that sanctification of invisible grace? ”

And now Calvin sounds traditional again (back and forth; back and forth). The end result of his heretical novelties is anti-traditional, for the most part. The aspects of Calvin's thought that are essentially anti-Catholic tend to prevail in the long run in his followers. This is almost sociologically inevitable when one group deliberately, consciously sets itself against another, as an antithesis. The elements that are most different and innovative become more and more prominent as time goes by, whereas traditional elements become less and less prominent or emphasized.

18. Extensive meaning of the term sacrament.

The term sacrament, in the view we have hitherto taken of it, includes, generally, all the signs which God ever commanded men to use, that he might make them sure and confident of the truth of his promises.

. . . whereas for Catholics, they are seven in number. Sacramentals extend the concept further, though they essentially depend on internal disposition, whereas sacraments have an intrinsic power from God.

These he was pleased sometimes to place in natural objects—sometimes to exhibit in miracles. Of the former class we have an example, in his giving the tree of life to Adam and Eve, as an earnest of immortality, that they might feel confident of the promise as often as they ate of the fruit. Another example was, when he gave the bow in the cloud to Noah and his posterity, as a memorial that he would not again destroy the earth by a flood. These were to Adam and Noah as sacraments: not that the tree could give Adam and Eve the immortality which it could not give to itself; or the bow (which is only a reflection of the solar rays on the opposite clouds) could have the effect of confining the waters; but they had a mark engraven on them by the word of God, to be proofs and seals of his covenant. The tree was previously a tree, and the bow a bow; but when they were inscribed with the word of God, a new form was given to them: they began to be what they previously were not. Lest any one suppose that these things were said in vain, the bow is even in the present day a witness to us of the covenant which God made with Noah (Calv. in Gen. 9:6). As often as we look upon it, we read this promise from God, that the earth will never be destroyed by a flood. Wherefore, if any philosophaster, to deride the simplicity of our faith, shall contend that the variety of colours arises naturally from the rays reflected by the opposite cloud, let us admit the fact; but, at the same time, deride his stupidity in not recognising God as the Lord and governor of nature, who, at his pleasure, makes all the elements subservient to his glory. If he had impressed memorials of this description on the sun, the stars, the earth, and stones, they would all have been to us as sacraments. For why is the shapeless and the coined silver not of the same value, seeing they are the same metal? Just because the former has nothing but its own nature, whereas the latter, impressed with the public stamp, becomes money, and receives a new value. And shall the Lord not be able to stamp his creatures with his word, that things which were formerly bare elements may become sacraments? Examples of the second class were given when he showed light to Abraham in the smoking furnace (Gen. 15:17), when he covered the fleece with dew while the ground was dry; and, on the other hand, when the dew covered the ground while the fleece was untouched, to assure Gideon of victory (Judges 6:37); also, when he made the shadow go back ten degrees on the dial, to assure Hezekiah of his recovery (2 Kings 20:9; Isa. 38:7). These things, which were done to assist and establish their faith, were also sacraments.

Note how St. Peter draws a deliberate analogy from the physically saving of Noah and his family "by water" and the spiritual saving (regeneration) of the baptized:

1 Peter 3:20-21 who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. [21] Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

This is how the Old Testament word pictures and events are often portrayed in the New Testament: they illustrated physical salvation or deliverance (such as being saved from a fire or flood or battlefield), whereas the New Covenant emphasizes spiritual salvation and eternal life: and in this case, by the direct instrumentality of the sacrament.

19. The ordinary sacraments in the Church. How necessary they are.

But my present purpose is to discourse especially of those sacraments which the Lord has been pleased to institute as ordinary sacraments in his Church, to bring up his worshippers and servants in one faith, and the confession of one faith. For, to use the words of Augustine, “In no name of religion, true or false, can men be assembled, unless united by some common use of visible signs or sacraments” (August. cont. Faustum, Lib. 9 c. 11). Our most merciful Father, foreseeing this necessity, from the very first appointed certain exercises of piety to his servants; these, Satan, by afterwards transferring to impious and superstitious worship, in many ways corrupted and depraved. Hence those initiations of the Gentiles into their mysteries, and other degenerate rites. Yet, although they were full of error and superstition, they were, at the same time, an indication that men could not be without such external signs of religion. But, as they were neither founded on the word of God, nor bore reference to that truth which ought to be held forth by all signs, they are unworthy of being named when mention is made of the sacred symbols which were instituted by God, and have not been perverted from their end—viz. to be helps to true piety.

Calvin assumes (as usual) that this essential corruption has happened, without making any sort of argument to prove that it has indeed occurred. Note that he doesn't even seem to allow for the possibility of reform of the five Catholic sacraments besides baptism and the Eucharist. He simply assumes they are hopeless and ditches them. Needless to say, this is outrageous and unjustifiable. Even the two sacraments he retains are gutted of much of their power, by the denial of baptismal regeneration and transubstantiation.

And they consist not of simple signs, like the rainbow and the tree of life, but of ceremonies, or (if you prefer it) the signs here employed are ceremonies.

Who says ceremonies (arbitrarily pitted against "simple signs") are a bad thing? This is assumed and not proven. Christianity is not a kindergarten religion, such that no one but the simple-minded can comprehend it, and that by means of "simple signs" -- as if ceremony and ritual are to be feared and disdained.

But since, as has been said above, they are testimonies of grace and salvation from the Lord,

Calvin keeps up this droning theme of sacraments as signs or "testimonies" of things already accomplished rather than instruments of these same things. If that were the case, then how can the following passages be squared with his "signs" approach, since the sacrament is specifically said to be the cause of the thing (i.e., salvation and/or remission of sins), not a mere sign of the thing already present?:

Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved . . . [disputed biblical manuscript, but still indicative of apostolic belief]
John 6:50-51 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. [51] I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."

John 6:53-58
So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; [54] he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. [55] For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. [56] He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. [57] As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. [58] This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."

Acts 2:38, 40 And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. . . . [40] And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation."

Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.'

Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit,

1 Peter 3:21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Now, since Holy Scripture is not enough for Calvin, and not agreeable to his taste and preferences in the matter of sacraments, we must modify it (Thomas Jefferson-style) in order to be consistent with his theology. Fortunately, we have the Revised Calvin Version (RCV) of the Bible for this purpose:

Mark 16:16 (RCV) He who believes and is baptized shows that he is already saved . . . [disputed biblical manuscript, but still indicative of apostolic belief]
John 6:50-51
(RCV) This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and signify that he is already in a state in which he would not die. [51] I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he proves that that he is already in a state in which he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."

John 6:53-58
(RCV) So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you can't give testimony that you already have life in you; [54] he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood shows that he already had eternal life, and that I was already going to raise him up at the last day. [55] For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. [56] He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood signifies that he already had been abiding in me, and I in him. [57] As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me was already living because of me. [58] This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread gives testimony that he already was living for ever."

Acts 2:38, 40 (RCV) And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, in order to show forth a seal of the already existing forgiveness of your sins; and your prior gift of the Holy Spirit. . . . [40] And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, "Give sign and testimony by baptism that you have already saved yourselves from this crooked generation."

Acts 22:16 (RCV) And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and show that you have already washed away your sins, calling on his name.'

Romans 6:4 (RCV) We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too signify that we already walk in newness of life, which is why we are being baptized.

Galatians 3:27 (RCV) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ as a seal to prove that you put on Christ before you were baptized.

Titus 3:5 (RCV) he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, and not by the washing of regeneration, but by the renewal in the Holy Spirit,

1 Peter 3:21 (RCV) Baptism, which corresponds to this, now proves that you are already saved, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as a seal and an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

so, in regard to us, they are marks of profession by which we openly swear by the name of God, binding ourselves to be faithful to him.

As the RCV above amply proves . . .

Hence Chrysostom somewhere shrewdly gives them the name of pactions, by which God enters into covenant with us, and we become bound to holiness and purity of life, because a mutual stipulation is here interposed between God and us. For as God there promises to cover and efface any guilt and penalty which we may have incurred by transgression, and reconciles us to himself in his only begotten Son, so we, in our turn, oblige ourselves by this profession to the study of piety and righteousness. And hence it may be justly said, that such sacraments are ceremonies, by which God is pleased to train his people, first, to excite, cherish, and strengthen faith within; and, secondly, to testify our religion to men.

That's not what the Bible teaches (at least not in the versions other than RCV), but that doesn't seem to trouble Calvin in the slightest.

20. The sacraments of the Old and of the New Testament. The end of both the same —viz. to lead us to Christ.

Now these have been different at different times, according to the dispensation which the Lord has seen meet to employ in manifesting himself to men. Circumcision was enjoined on Abraham and his posterity, and to it were afterwards added purifications and sacrifices, and other rites of the Mosaic Law. These were the sacraments of the Jews even until the advent of Christ. After these were abrogated, the two sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which the Christian Church now employs, were instituted.

Calvin ignores the other five sacraments. In this he largely follows the thought of John Wycliffe, though the latter's thinking was somewhat less radical.

I speak of those which were instituted for the use of the whole Church. For the laying on of hands, by which the ministers of the Church are initiated into their office, though I have no objection to its being called a sacrament, I do not number among ordinary sacraments.

So ordination is possibly a sacrament, but not an ordinary one. Huh?

The place to be assigned to the other commonly reputed sacraments we shall see by-and-by.

Note that they are common and Calvin's derogatory language of "reputed" as if the case were cut-and-dried.

Still the ancient sacraments had the same end in view as our own

Interesting juxtaposition of "ancient" practice vs. Calvin's . . .

—viz. to direct and almost lead us by the hand to Christ, or rather, were like images to represent him and hold him forth to our knowledge. But as we have already shown that sacraments are a kind of seals of the promises of God,

The RCV (unlike every other Bible version) makes that very clear . . .

so let us hold it as a most certain truth, that no divine promise has ever been offered to man except in Christ, and that hence when they remind us of any divine promise, they must of necessity exhibit Christ. Hence that heavenly pattern of the tabernacle and legal worship which was shown to Moses in the mount. There is only this difference, that while the former shadowed forth a promised Christ while he was still expected, the latter bear testimony to him as already come and manifested.

And sacraments give grace as well.

21. This apparent in the sacraments of the Old Testament.

When these things are explained singly and separately, they will be much clearer. Circumcision was a sign by which the Jews were reminded that whatever comes of the seed of man—in other words, the whole nature of man—is corrupt, and requires to be cut off; moreover, it was a proof and memorial to confirm them in the promise made to Abraham, of a seed in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed, and from whom they themselves were to look for a blessing. That saving seed, as we are taught by Paul (Gal. 5:16), was Christ, in whom alone they trusted to recover what they had lost in Adam. Wherefore circumcision was to them what Paul says it was to Abraham—viz. a sign of the righteousness of faith (Rom. 9:11):—viz. a seal by which they were more certainly assured that their faith in waiting for the Lord would be accepted by God for righteousness. But we shall have a better opportunity elsewhere (chap. 16 sec. 3, 4) of following out the comparison between circumcision and baptism.

There is indeed a biblical parallel drawn by St. Paul between circumcision and baptism, but Calvin takes it too far if he consigns baptism to being only a sign of accomplished election or salvation.

Their washings and purifications placed under their eye the uncleanness, defilement, and pollution with which they were naturally contaminated, and promised another laver in which all their impurities might be wiped and washed away. This laver was Christ, washed by whose blood we bring his purity into the sight of God, that he may cover all our defilements. The sacrifices convicted them of their unrighteousness, and at the same time taught that there was a necessity for paying some satisfaction to the justice of God; and that, therefore, there must be some high priest, some mediator between God and man, to satisfy God by the shedding of blood, and the immolation of a victim which might suffice for the remission of sins. The high priest was Christ: he shed his own blood, he was himself the victim: for in obedience to the Father, he offered himself to death, and by this obedience abolished the disobedience by which man had provoked the indignation of God (Phil. 2:8; Rom. 5:19).

Catholics agree with this general soteriology, since it is not yet getting into disputed issues of sola fide, imputation, etc.

22. Apparent also in the sacraments of the New Testament.

In regard to our sacraments, they present Christ the more clearly to us, the more familiarly he has been manifested to man, ever since he was exhibited by the Father, truly as he had been promised. For Baptism testifies that we are washed and purified;

No; it brings about the washing and purification. This is quite clear in Holy Scripture. But if a person insists on reading his peculiar anti-traditional theology into that same Scripture, then nothing can be done except to point out that this is taking place and object to it.

the Supper of the Eucharist that we are redeemed.

Again, it helps cause the redemption; not only signify its prior presence.

Ablution is figured by water, satisfaction by blood. Both are found in Christ, who, as John says, “came by water and blood;” that is, to purify and redeem. Of this the Spirit of God also is a witness. Nay, there are three witnesses in one, water, Spirit, and blood. In the water and blood we have an evidence of purification and redemption, but the Spirit is the primary witness who gives us a full assurance of this testimony. This sublime mystery was illustriously displayed on the cross of Christ, when water and blood flowed from his sacred side (John 19:34); which, for this reason, Augustine justly termed the fountain of our sacraments (August. Hom. in Joann. 26). Of these we shall shortly treat at greater length. There is no doubt that, it you compare time with time, the grace of the Spirit is now more abundantly displayed. For this forms part of the glory of the kingdom of Christ, as we gather from several passages, and especially from the seventh chapter of John. In this sense are we to understand the words of Paul, that the law was “a shadow of good things to come, but the body is of Christ” (Col. 2:17). His purpose is not to declare the inefficacy of those manifestations of grace in which God was pleased to prove his truth to the patriarchs, just as he proves it to us in the present day in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but to contrast the two, and show the great value of what is given to us, that no one may think it strange that by the advent of Christ the ceremonies of the law have been abolished.

No particular objections beyond those already expressed . . .

23. Impious doctrine of the Schoolmen as to the difference between the Old and the New Testaments.

The Scholastic dogma (to glance at it in passing),

. . . which is more than the usual miniscule or nonexistent attention Calvin gives to existing Catholic theological reasoning . . .

by which the difference between the sacraments of the old and the new dispensation is made so great, that the former did nothing but shadow forth the grace of God, while the latter actually confer that it, must be altogether exploded. Since the apostle speaks in no higher terms of the one than of the other, when he says that the fathers ate of the same spiritual food, and explains that that food was Christ (1 Cor. 10:3), who will presume to regard as an empty sign that which gave a manifestation to the Jews of true communion with Christ?

But we have only Calvin's jaded report of what the Scholastics taught, to go by, and I certainly don't trust that, from what we have seen previously.

And the state of the case which the apostle is there treating militates strongly for our view. For to guard against confiding in a frigid knowledge of Christ, an empty title of Christianity and external observances, and thereby daring to contemn the judgment of God, he exhibits signal examples of divine severity in the Jews, to make us aware that if we indulge in the same vices, the same punishments which they suffered are impending over us. Now, to make the comparison appropriate, it was necessary to show that there is no inequality between us and them in those blessings in which he forbade us to glory. Therefore, he first makes them equal to us in the sacraments, and leaves us not one iota of privilege which could give us hopes of impunity. Nor can we justly attribute more to our baptism than he elsewhere attributes to circumcision, when he terms it a seal of the righteousness of faith (Rom. 4:11).

This is where Calvin errs, and ignores several Pauline indications of baptismal regeneration (seen above).

Whatever, therefore, is now exhibited to us in the sacraments, the Jews formerly received in theirs—viz. Christ, with his spiritual riches. The same efficacy which ours possess they experienced in theirs—viz. that they were seals of the divine favour toward them in regard to the hope of eternal salvation.

It is in reducing sacraments to mere seals and signs that an equality is thereby conferred between Old and New Covenant sacraments. Catholics think that the New Covenant is a significant improvement in terms of outpouring of grace, and our sacramentology reflects that.

Had the objectors been sound expounders of the Epistle to the Hebrews, they would not have been so deluded, but reading therein that sins were not expiated by legal ceremonies, nay, that the ancient shadows were of no importance to justification, they overlooked the contrast which is there drawn, and fastening on the single point, that the law in itself was of no avail to the worshipper, thought that they were mere figures, devoid of truth. The purpose of the apostle is to show that there is nothing in the ceremonial law until we arrive at Christ, on whom alone the whole efficacy depends.

No particular disagreement . . .

24. Scholastic objection answered.

But they will found on what Paul says of the circumcision of the letter, and object that it is in no esteem with God; that it confers nothing, is empty; that passages such as these seem to set it far beneath our baptism.

Calvin's nameless, undocumented "scholastics" teach this way? I don't know who they are. He gives no hard evidence. I do know, however, of one famous "scholastic": St. Thomas Aquinas. And what he says is scarcely distinguishable from Calvin's own argument concerning the parallel between circumcision and baptism:

The Apostle says (Colossians 2:11-12): "You are circumcised with circumcision, not made by hand in despoiling the body of the flesh, but in the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in Baptism."
. . . Baptism is called the Sacrament of Faith; in so far, to wit, as in Baptism man makes a profession of faith, and by Baptism is aggregated to the congregation of the faithful. Now our faith is the same as that of the Fathers of old, according to the Apostle (2 Corinthians 4:13): "Having the same spirit of faith . . . we . . . believe." But circumcision was a protestation of faith; wherefore by circumcision also men of old were aggregated to the body of the faithful. Consequently, it is manifest that circumcision was a preparation for Baptism and a figure thereof, forasmuch as "all things happened" to the Fathers of old "in figure" (1 Corinthians 10:11); just as their faith regarded things to come.
. . . Circumcision was like Baptism as to the spiritual effect of the latter. For just as circumcision removed a carnal pellicule, so Baptism despoils man of carnal behavior.
. . . The protecting pillar of cloud and the crossing of the Red Sea were indeed figures of our Baptism, whereby we are born again of water, signified by the Red Sea; and of the Holy Ghost, signified by the pillar of cloud: yet man did not make, by means of these, a profession of faith, as by circumcision; so that these two things were figures but not sacraments. But circumcision was a sacrament, and a preparation for Baptism; although less clearly figurative of Baptism, as to externals, than the aforesaid. And for this reason the Apostle mentions them rather than circumcision.
(Summa Theologica, Third Part, Q 70: Circumcision; Article 1. Whether circumcision was a preparation for, and a figure of Baptism?)

But by no means. For the very same thing might justly be said of baptism. Indeed, it is said; first by Paul himself, when he shows that God regards not the external ablution by which we are initiated into religion, unless the mind is purified inwardly, and maintains its purity to the end;

It's easy to slant a person's teaching if only one aspect of it is mentioned. As we have seen already, St. Paul taught that the baptized "have put on Christ" (Gal 3:27) and states that God "saved us, . . . by the washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5). He reported with obvious agreement what Ananias said to him: "Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins" (Acts 22:16).

and, secondly, by Peter, when he declares that the reality of baptism consists not in external ablution, but in the testimony of a good conscience.

And in the same passage (1 Pet 3:21) he also says that "Baptism, . . . now saves you." The same Peter preached after the first Pentecost: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2:38). Calvin conveniently decided to bypass both portions. They aren't part of the "sign and seal" playbook, and don't exactly fit into that schema. So they didn't make the "cut."

But it seems that in another passage he speaks with the greatest contempt of circumcision made with hands, when he contrasts it with the circumcision made by Christ. I answer, that not even in that passage is there anything derogatory to its dignity. Paul is there disputing against those who insisted upon it as necessary, after it had been abrogated. He therefore admonishes believers to lay aside ancient shadows, and cleave to truth. These teachers, he says, insist that your bodies shall be circumcised. But you have been spiritually circumcised both in soul and body. You have, therefore, a manifestation of the reality, and this is far better than the shadow. Still any one might have answered, that the figure was not to be despised because they had the reality, since among the fathers also was exemplified that putting off of the old man of which he was speaking, and yet to them external circumcision was not superfluous. This objection he anticipates, when he immediately adds, that the Colossians were buried together with Christ by baptism, thereby intimating that baptism is now to Christians what circumcision was to those of ancient times; and that the latter, therefore, could not be imposed on Christians without injury to the former.

That much is true. But Paul wasn't utterly opposed to circumcision, even in the New Covenant. We know this from Acts 16:3:
Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
Some have argued that this was hypocritical on Paul's part in much the same way as Peter was acting hypocritically in the famous incident where Paul rebuked him (Gal 2:11). How great an irony, if in fact that is true!

25. Another objection answered.

But there is more difficulty in explaining the passage which follows, and which I lately quote —viz. that all the Jewish ceremonies were shadows of things to come, but the body is of Christ (Col. 2:17). The most difficult point of all, however, is that which is discussed in several chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrews—namely, that the blood of beasts did not reach to the conscience; that the law was a shadow of good things to come, but not the very image of the things (Heb. 10:1); that worshippers under the Mosaic ceremonies obtained no degree of perfection, and so forth. I repeat what I have already hinted, that Paul does not represent the ceremonies as shadowy because they had nothing solid in them, but because their completion was in a manner suspended until the manifestation of Christ. Again, I hold that the words are to be understood not of their efficiency, but rather of the mode of significancy.

I guess these may be some of the reasons why St. Thomas wrote: "circumcision was a sacrament, and a preparation for Baptism."

For until Christ was manifested in the flesh, all signs shadowed him as absent, however he might inwardly exert the presence of his power, and consequently of his person on believers. But the most important observation is, that in all these passages Paul does not speak simply but by way of reply. He was contending with false apostles, who maintained that piety consisted in mere ceremonies, without any respect to Christ; for their refutation it was sufficient merely to consider what effect ceremonies have in themselves. This, too, was the scope of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Let us remember, therefore, that he is here treating of ceremonies not taken in their true and native signification, but when wrested to a false and vicious interpretation, not of the legitimate use, but of the superstitious abuse of them. What wonder, then, if ceremonies, when separated from Christ, are devoid of all virtue? All signs become null when the thing signified is taken away. Thus Christ, when addressing those who thought that manna was nothing more than food for the body, accommodates his language to their gross opinion, and says, that he furnished a better food, one which fed souls for immortality. But if you require a clearer solution, the substance comes to this: First, the whole apparatus of ceremonies under the Mosaic law, unless directed to Christ, is evanescent and null. Secondly, these ceremonies had such respect to Christ, that they had their fulfilment only when Christ was manifested in the flesh. Lastly, at his advent they behoved to disappear, just as the shadow vanishes in the clear light of the sun. But I now touch more briefly on the point, because I defer the future consideration of it till I come to the place where I intend to compare baptism with circumcision.

It's not at all clear that the above is necessarily contrary to Catholic teaching. But Calvin is blissfully unaware of this.

26. Sacraments of the New Testament sometimes excessively extolled by early Theologians. Their meaning explained.

Those wretched sophists are perhaps deceived by the extravagant eulogiums on our signs which occur in ancient writers: for instance, the following passage of Augustine: “The sacraments of the old law only promised a Saviour, whereas ours give salvation” (August. Proem. in Ps. 73). Not perceiving that these and similar figures of speech are hyperbolical, they too have promulgated their hyperbolical dogmas, but in a sense altogether alien from that of ancient writers. For Augustine means nothing more than in another place where he says, “The sacraments of the Mosaic law foretold Christ, ours announce him” (Quæst. sup. Numer. c. 33). And again, “Those were promises of things to be fulfilled, these indications of the fulfilment” (Contra Faustum, Lib. 19 c. 14); as if he had said, Those figured him when he was still expected, ours, now that he has arrived, exhibit him as present.

Much like St. Thomas . . .

Moreover, with regard to the mode of signifying, he says, as he also elsewhere indicates, “The Law and the Prophets had sacraments foretelling a thing future, the sacraments of our time attest that what they foretold as to come has come” (Cont. Liter. Petil. Lib. 2 c. 37). His sentiments concerning the reality and efficacy, he explains in several passages, as when he says, “The sacraments of the Jews were different in the signs, alike in the things signified; different in the visible appearance, alike in spiritual power” (Hom. in Joann. 26). Again, “In different signs there was the same faith: it was thus in different signs as in different words, because the words change the sound according to times, and yet words are nothing else than signs. The fathers drank of the same spiritual drink, but not of the same corporeal drink. See then, how, while faith remains, signs vary. There the rock was Christ; to us that is Christ which is placed on the altar. They as a great sacrament drank of the water flowing from the rock: believers know what we drink. If you look at the visible appearance there was a difference; if at the intelligible signification, they drank of the same spiritual drink.” Again, “In this mystery their food and drink are the same as ours; the same in meaning, not in form, for the same Christ was figured to them in the rock; to us he has been manifested in the flesh” (in Ps. 77). Though we grant that in this respect also there is some difference. Both testify that the paternal kindness of God, and the graces of the Spirit, are offered us in Christ, but ours more clearly and splendidly. In both there is an exhibition of Christ, but in ours it is more full and complete, in accordance with that distinction between the Old and New Testaments of which we have discoursed above. And this is the meaning of Augustine (whom we quote more frequently, as being the best and most faithful witness of all antiquity),

Yet St. Augustine was not by any stretch of the imagination closer to Calvin in thought than to the Catholic Church's teaching. For this reason Calvin appears to always be extremely selective in citing him. He denied "faith alone" (sola fide). He denied sola Scriptura, which was an unknown concept among the fathers. He believed in the Real, Substantial Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and in purgatory. He was thoroughly Catholic all down the line.

where he says that after Christ was revealed, sacraments were instituted, fewer in number, but of more august significancy and more excellent power (De Doct. Christ. Lib. 3; et Ep. ad Janur.).

In any event, Augustine believed in seven sacraments, not two.

It is here proper to remind the reader, that all the trifling talk of the sophists concerning the opus operatum, is not only false. but repugnant to the very nature of sacraments, which God appointed in order that believers, who are void and in want of all good, might bring nothing of their own, but simply beg. Hence it follows, that in receiving them they do nothing which deserves praise, and that in this action (which in respect of them is merely passive) no work can be ascribed to them.

Ex opere operato was dealt with in the section on IV, 14:15.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Antidote to John Calvin's Institutes (IV,14:15) [Ex Opere Operato / St. Augustine's & Catholic View of Sacraments vs. Calvin]

See the introduction and links to all installments at the top of my John Calvin, Calvinism, and General Protestantism web page; also the online version of the Institutes. Calvin's words will be in blue throughout. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.

* * * * *

Book IV



15. Refutation confirmed by a passage from Augustine.

Hence the distinction, if properly understood, repeatedly made by Augustine between the sacrament and the matter of the sacrament. For he does not mean merely that the figure and truth are therein contained, but that they do not so cohere as not to be separable, and that in this connection it is always necessary to distinguish the thing from the sign, so as not to transfer to the one what belongs to the other. Augustine speaks of the separation when he says that in the elect alone the sacraments accomplish what they represent (Augustin. de Bapt. Parvul.). Again, when speaking of the Jews, he says, “Though the sacraments were common to all, the grace was not common: yet grace is the virtue of the sacraments. Thus, too, the laver of regeneration is now common to all, but the grace by which the members of Christ are regenerated with their head is not common to all” (August. in Ps. 78).

Obviously, people have different levels of grace. Catholics don't quibble with that.

Again, in another place, speaking of the Lord’s Supper, he says, “We also this day receive visible food; but the sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the sacrament another. Why is it that many partake of the altar and die, and die by partaking? For even the cup of the Lord was poison to Judas, not because he received what was evil, but being wicked he wickedly received what was good” (August. in Joann. Hom. 26).


A little after, he says, “The sacrament of this thing, that is, of the unity of the body and blood of Christ, is in some places prepared every day, in others at certain intervals at the Lord’s table, which is partaken by some unto life, by others unto destruction. But the thing itself, of which there is a sacrament, is life to all, and destruction to none who partake of it.”

In other words, it is connected to salvation ("life to all"), just as Jesus explained in John 6.

Some time before he had said, “He who may have eaten shall not die, but he must be one who attains to the virtue of the sacrament, not to the visible sacrament; who eats inwardly, not outwardly; who eats with the heart, and not with the teeth.” Here you are uniformly told that a sacrament is so separated from the reality by the unworthiness of the partaker, that nothing remains but an empty and useless figure. Now, in order that you may have not a sign devoid of truth, but the thing with the sign, the Word which is included in it must be apprehended by faith. Thus, in so far as by means of the sacraments you will profit in the communion of Christ, will you derive advantage from them.

Calvin, as is his wont, goes too far and denies an underlying Catholic principle: ex opere operato: the notion that the sacraments have inherent power and have effect precisely because God's power is in them. Catholics agree that the benefits of the sacrament can vary, according to inner disposition, but they also assert ex opere operato, and it is Calvin's aim to deny that. The Catholic view is Christ-centered, whereas Calvin's view is too man-centered on the scale of things. He puts relatively more emphasis on the recipient rather than the Lord of the sacraments, Who uses them to accomplish His purposes. The Catechism of the Catholic Church asserts the proper, balanced view:

1127 Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify. They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. The Father always hears the prayer of his Son's Church which, in the epiclesis of each sacrament, expresses her faith in the power of the Spirit. As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power.

1128 This is the meaning of the Church's affirmation that the sacraments act ex opere operato (literally: "by the very fact of the action's being performed"), i.e., by virtue of the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all. It follows that "the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God." [footnote: St. Thomas Aquinas, S Th, III, 68, 8] From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.

1129 The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. "Sacramental grace" is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature [footnote: cf. 2 Peter 1:4] by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior.

St. Augustine (virtually Calvin's chosen "patron saint") accepted ex opere operato. For example, he wrote:

Baptism consists not in the merits of those by whom it is administered, nor of those to whom it is administered, but in its own sanctity and truth, on account of Him who instituted it.

(Cont. Cres., IV)

Whence this great power of water, that it touches the body and cleanses the soul?

(Tractate 80 on the Gospel of John)

To my mind it is abundantly clear that in the matter of baptism we have to consider not who he is that gives it, but what it is that he gives; not who he is that receives, but what it is that he receives . . . Wherefore, any one who is on the side of the devil cannot defile the sacrament, which is of Christ . . . When baptism is administered by the words of the gospel, however great the evil of either minister or recipient may be, the sacrament itself is holy on account of the one whose sacrament it is. In the case of people who receive baptism from an evil person, if they do not receive the perverseness of the minister but the holiness of the mystery, being united to the church in good faith and hope and charity, they will receive the forgiveness of their sins.

(On Baptism; cited by Protestant historian Alister McGrath, Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought, Wiley-Blackwell, 1998, pp. 77-78)

Elsewhere, Calvin explicitly rejects ex opere operato, and in so doing, shows that he scarcely even understands what it is that he rejects:

To show more fully the agreement between the doctrine of the Papists and that which Paul opposes, it must be observed, that the sacraments, when we partake of them in a sincere manner, are not the works of men, but of God. In baptism or the Lord’s supper, we do nothing but present ourselves to God, in order to receive his grace. Baptism, viewed in regard to us, is a passive work: we bring nothing to it but faith; and all that belongs to it is laid up in Christ. But what are the views of the Papists? They contrive the opus operatum, by which men merit the grace of God; and what is this, but to extinguish utterly the truth of the sacrament?

(Commentary on Galatians 5:1-6, section 3; translated by John King)

Calvin scholar David Curtis Steinmetz makes it very clear that Calvin opposed ex opere operato:

From the standpoint of medieval theology, Zwingli and Calvin placed the baptism of Jesus and John on the same level, partly by raising the baptism of John and partly by lowering the baptism of Christ. They elevated the baptism of John by insisting that John preached the gospel and offered the same baptism as the apostles. They lowered the baptism of Christ by arguing that it conferred no grace ex opere operato.

(Calvin in Context, Oxford University Press, 1995, p. 168)

Reformed Protestant theologian G. C. Berkouwer explains very well, and fairly and objectively (as he usually does), the differences between Catholic and Calvinist thinking regarding the sacraments and ex opere operato:

Why, then, did the Reformers so unanimously reject ex opere operato? . . .

It is striking that so much agreement exists between Lutherans and Reformed precisely in the rejection of ex opere operato. . . . he [Calvin] objects to the ex opere operato not only because it is incorrect but because (as he remarks) it contradicts the very nature of the sacraments. . . .

[Dave: Calvin writes in IV, 14, 26 (cross-reference cited by Berkouwer, but in Latin footnotes):
It is here proper to remind the reader, that all the trifling talk of the sophists concerning the opus operatum, is not only false, but repugnant to the very nature of sacraments, which God appointed in order that believers, who are void and in want of all good, might bring nothing of their own, but simply beg. Hence it follows, that in receiving them they do nothing which deserves praise, and that in this action (which in respect of them is merely passive) no work can be ascribed to them.]

. . . we must now recognize that the Roman Catholic not only rejects this reproach of magic, but that he also faces a problem of subjectivity in the sacraments. This is already apparent in the pronouncement of Trent, which not only poses the ex opere operato, but also speaks of the problem of the obstacle. It is impossible, therefore, to speak simplistically of the Roman Catholic sacramental doctrine as "magical." . . . a subjective disposition is necessary for the working of the sacrament. Rome never intended to rule out this disposition in an objectivistic manner, but only to deny that this necessary disposition is either causal or meritorious. . . . In spite of all the criticism from the Reformed side, Rome wants to defend the gratuity of grace. . . .

This mode does not simply pit objectivity against subjectivism, nor sacrament-magic against human activity. It does not place the absolute gratuity of grace in opposition to the meritoriousness and the preparation of man. It rather synthesizes and connects these contradictory elements, and precisely in so doing it places itself against the Reformed doctrine of the sacraments. . . .

For the Reformation, the objectivity of the sacraments could no longer depend on the efficacy of infused supernatural grace . . . The sacraments are no longer independent new fountains of grace . . .

The sacrament no longer has the function of infusing supernatural grace, but can only be understood in connection with the word of promise. . . . There is a receiving of the sacrament which is altogether different from the receiving of supernatural grace.

(Studies in Dogmatics: The Sacraments, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1969, pp. 64-65, 67, 69, 74, 76)

The excellent Catholic Encyclopedia article on Sacraments describes Calvin's and Protestantism's errors in this regard and presents the Catholic alternative (paragraphs are my own, for easier reading):

Luther and his early followers rejected this conception of the sacraments. They do not cause grace, but are merely "signs and testimonies of God's good will towards us" (Augsburg Confessions); they excite faith, and faith (fiduciary) causes justification. Calvinists and Presbyterians hold substantially the same doctrine. Zwinglius lowered still further the dignity of the sacraments, making them signs not of God's fidelity but of our fidelity. By receiving the sacraments we manifest faith in Christ: they are merely the badges of our profession and the pledges of our fidelity.

Fundamentally all these errors arise from Luther's newly-invented theory of righteousness, i.e. the doctrine of justification by faith alone (see GRACE). If man is to be sanctified not by an interior renovation through grace which will blot out his sins, but by an extrinsic imputation through the merits of Christ, which will cover his soul as a cloak, there is no place for signs that cause grace, and those used can have no other purpose than to excite faith in the Saviour. . . .

Against all innovators the Council of Trent declared: "If anyone say that the sacraments of the New Law do not contain the grace which they signify, or that they do not confer grace on those who place no obstacle to the same, let him be anathema" (Sess. viii, "If anyone say that grace is not conferred by the sacraments ex opere operato but that faith in God's promises is alone sufficient for obtaining grace, let him be anathema" (ibid., can. viii; cf. can. iv, v, vii).

The phrase "ex opere operato", for which there is no equivalent in English, probably was used for the first time by Peter of Poitiers (d. 1205), and afterwards by Innocent III (d. 1216; de myst. missae, III, v), and by St. Thomas (d. 1274; IV Sent., dist. 1, Q.i, a.5). It was happily invented to express a truth that had always been taught and had been introduced without objection. . . . "Ex opere operato", i.e. by virtue of the action, means that the efficacy of the action of the sacraments does not depend on anything human, but solely on the will of God as expressed by Christ's institution and promise.

"Ex opere operantis", i.e. by reason of the agent, would mean that the action of the sacraments depended on the worthiness either of the minister or of the recipient . . . It is well known that Catholics teach that the sacraments are only the instrumental, not the principal, causes of grace.

Neither can it be claimed that the phrase adopted by the council does away with all dispositions necessary on the part of the recipient, the sacraments acting like infallible charms causing grace in those who are ill-disposed or in grievous sin. The fathers of the council were careful to note that there must be no obstacle to grace on the part of the recipients, who must receive them rite, i.e. rightly and worthily; and they declare it a calumny to assert that they require no previous dispositions (Sess. XIV, de poenit., cap.4).

Dispositions are required to prepare the subject, but they are a condition (conditio sine qua non), not the causes, of the grace conferred. In this case the sacraments differ from the sacramentals, which may cause grace ex opere operantis, i.e. by reason of the prayers of the Church or the good, pious sentiments of those who use them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Catholic Church Opens Up a New Avenue for Disaffected Anglicans

Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914)

See the article today in The Washington Post.

See the actual Church document, Vatican Note on Establishing Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans, put out by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and published by Zenit.

See discussion on the New Liturgical Movement website.

See Fr. John Zuhlsdorf's notes and discussion on the What Does the Prayer Really Say? site.

See an article and many further links at the Catholic Culture site.

Anglican reaction detailed in The Telegraph.

Joint Catholic-Anglican statement.

Further links and comments at the Thinking Anglicans site.

Article by Deacon Keith Fournier at Catholic Online.

Canon lawyer Edward Peters' take at In the Light of the Law.

Jimmy Akin's reaction on his blog.

Catholic News Service article.

Catholic News Agency article.

National Catholic Reporter article [liberal].

Creative Minority Report article [liberal and hostile].

I think this is a fabulous development, and one long called-for. As a person who was most influenced in my own journey by Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, and who is very fond of those either part of or formerly of the Anglican tradition (G. K. Chesterton -- my latest book is a collection of his quotes -- , C. S. Lewis [my favorite writer], Malcolm Muggeridge, Robert Hugh Benson [see additional link], Ronald Knox, John Wesley, etc.), I'm very excited about this.

I'm also all for liturgical diversity, according to desires of the faithful, as long as they don't conflict with Catholic norms. So I am as happy about this as I was regarding the wider allowance of the Tridentine Mass. It's a charitable and common-sense move, in my opinion.

And it may very well promote lots more conversions to the Catholic faith, which is always a good thing. Just as the wider use of the Tridentine Mass has tended to "de-radicalize" self-described Catholic "traditionalists," and make them more content within the fold, so this decision will bring in self-described Anglo-Catholics. In both cases legitimate desires were met and more people can start to experience the fullness of apostolic, historic Christianity that the Catholic Church uniquely offers.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Antidote to John Calvin's Institutes (IV,14:10-14) [Merit / Pelagianism / Human Cooperation / Sacraments, Salvation, & the Church Fathers]


See the introduction and links to all installments at the top of my John Calvin, Calvinism, and General Protestantism web page; also the online version of the Institutes. Calvin's words will be in blue throughout. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.

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Book IV



10. Objections answered. Illustrated by a simile.

In this way, also, we dispose of certain objections by which some anxious minds are annoyed. If we ascribe either an increase or confirmation of faith to creatures, injustice is done to the Spirit of God, who alone ought to be regarded as its author. But we do not rob him of the merit of confirming and increasing faith; nay, rather, we maintain that that which confirms and increases faith, is nothing else than the preparing of our minds by his internal illumination to receive that confirmation which is set forth by the sacraments. But if the subject is still obscure, it will be made plain by the following similitude: Were you to begin to persuade a person by word to do something, you would think of all the arguments by which he may be brought over to your view, and in a manner compelled to serve your purpose. But nothing is gained if the individual himself possess not a clear and acute judgment, by which he may be able to weigh the value of your arguments; if, moreover, he is not of a docile disposition, and ready to listen to doctrine; if, in fine, he has no such idea of your faith and prudence as in a manner to prejudice him in your favour, and secure his assent. For there are many obstinate spirits who are not to be bent by any arguments; and where faith is suspected, or authority contemned, little progress is made even with the docile. On the other hand, when opposite feelings exist, the result will be, that the person whose interests you are consulting will acquiesce in the very counsels which he would otherwise have derided. The same work is performed in us by the Spirit. That the word may not fall upon our ear, or the sacraments be presented to our eye in vain, he shows that it is God who there speaks to us, softens our obdurate hearts, and frames them to the obedience which is due to his word; in short, transmits those external words and sacraments from the ear to the soul. Both word and sacraments, therefore, confirm our faith, bringing under view the kind intentions of our heavenly Father, in the knowledge of which the whole assurance of our faith depends, and by which its strength is increased; and the Spirit also confirms our faith when, by engraving that assurance on our minds, he renders it effectual. Meanwhile, it is easy for the Father of lights, in like manner as he illumines the bodily eye by the rays of the sun, to illumine our minds by the sacraments, as by a kind of intermediate brightness.

An increase of faith can be ascribed to creatures as long as we don't deny that God is the ultimate cause of this. Calvin's "either/or" mentality doesn't allow him to be able to ascribe anything to human beings: not even, apparently, a cooperative effort initiated (yes indeed), by God, but still given assent to by the creature. Scripture is clear in many ways about our participation in the entire process.

This is evident, for example, in the supreme emphasis on works and what we do, in biblical scenes having to do with Judgment Day.

It's apparent again in many passages asserting the existence of our own work even with regard to salvation:

Acts 2:40-41 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. [41] Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Philippians 2:12-13
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. [13] For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

1 Timothy 4:16
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (RSV: “Take heed to yourself and to your teaching: hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers”)

Also, we can note many passages that assert meritoriousness of human acts and differential rewards (something that Calvin vehemently denies):

Matthew 5:11-12: “’Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.’” (cf. Mk. 9:41; Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10, 3:11-12)

Matthew 19:29: “’And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.’” (cf. 19:21)

Luke 6:38: “’give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’” (cf. 6:35; Col. 3:23-24)

1 Corinthians 3:6-9: “I planted, Apol'los watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.” (cf. 3:14; 2 Cor. 9:6; 2 Tim. 4:8)

2 Corinthians 6:1: “Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.”

Ephesians 6:8: “knowing that whatever good any one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.” (cf. Matt. 16:27)
Hebrews 10:35: “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” (cf. 6:10; Matt. 20:4; 2 John 8)

11. Of the increase of faith by the preaching of the word.
This property our Lord showed to belong to the external word, when, in the parable, he compared it to seed (Mt. 13:4; Luke 8:15). For as the seed, when it falls on a deserted and neglected part of the field, can do nothing but die, but when thrown into ground properly laboured and cultivated, will yield a hundred-fold; so the word of God, when addressed to any stubborn spirit, will remain without fruit, as if thrown upon the barren waste, but when it meets with a soul which the hand of the heavenly Spirit has subdued, will be most fruitful.

God's grace causes all hearts to respond, but it is not without human cooperation. We have the free will to resist God's grace. It is not irresistible, as Calvin and Calvinists teach.

But if the case of the seed and of the word is the same, and from the seed corn can grow and increase, and attain to maturity, why may not faith also take its beginning, increase, and completion from the word? Both things are admirably explained by Paul in different passages. For when he would remind the Corinthians how God had given effect to his labours, he boasts that he possessed the ministry of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4); just as if his preaching were inseparably connected with the power of the Holy Spirit, in inwardly enlightening the mind, and stimulating it.

Exactly. There is the human-divine cooperation, or "working together" (as St. Paul expresses in 2 Cor 6:1):

1 Corinthians 2:4-5 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, [5] that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
But in another passage, when he would remind them what the power of the word is in itself, when preached by man, he compares ministers to husbandmen, who, after they have expended labour and industry in cultivating the ground, have nothing more that they can do. For what would ploughing, and sowing, and watering avail, unless that which was sown should, by the kindness of Heaven, vegetate? Wherefore he concludes, that he that planteth, and he that watereth is nothing, but that the whole is to be ascribed to God, who alone gives the increase.

Of course. No one (including Catholics) who understands biblical soteriology in a non-Pelagian way disagrees with this.

The apostles, therefore, exert the power of the Spirit in their preaching, inasmuch as God uses them as instruments which he has ordained for the unfolding of his spiritual grace. Still, however, we must not lose sight of the distinction, but remember what man is able of himself to do, and what is peculiar to God.

Indeed. Now, if Calvin could only figure out that Catholics agree with him insofar as Pelagianism (man saving himself apart from God's grace) is false . . . .

12. In what way, and how far, the sacraments are confirmations of our faith.

The sacraments are confirmations of our faith in such a sense, that the Lord, sometimes, when he sees meet to withdraw our assurance of the things which he had promised in the sacraments, takes away the sacraments themselves. When he deprives Adam of the gift of immortality, and expels him from the garden, “lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and live for ever” (Gen. 3:22). What is this we hear? Could that fruit have restored Adam to the immortality from which he had already fallen? By no means. It is just as if he had said, Lest he indulge in vain confidence, if allowed to retain the symbol of my promise, let that be withdrawn which might give him some hope of immortality. On this ground, when the apostle urges the Ephesians to remember, that they “were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12), he says that they were not partakers of circumcision. He thus intimates metonymically, that all were excluded from the promise who had not received the badge of the promise. To the other objection—viz. that when so much power is attributed to creatures, the glory of God is bestowed upon them, and thereby impaired—it is obvious to reply, that we attribute no power to the creatures. All we say is, that God uses the means and instruments which he sees to be expedient, in order that all things may be subservient to his glory, he being the Lord and disposer of all. Therefore, as by bread and other aliment he feeds our bodies, as by the sun he illumines, and by fire gives warmth to the world, and yet bread, sun, and fire are nothing, save inasmuch as they are instruments under which he dispenses his blessings to us; so in like manner he spiritually nourishes our faith by means of the sacraments, whose only office is to make his promises visible to our eye, or rather, to be pledges of his promises.

Sacraments are also causes of grace and salvation, which is what the Church had always taught, over against Calvin's heresy that sacraments are only signs and seals. I've dealt with baptismal regeneration in a previous section. Calvin denies that the Eucharist has anything to do with salvation and asserts that it is merely a sign and seal. But that is not what Jesus taught:

John 6:48-58 I am the bread of life. [49] Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. [50] This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. [51] I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." [52] The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" [53] So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; [54] he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. [55] For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. [56] He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. [57] As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. [58] This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."

And as it is our duty in regard to the other creatures which the divine liberality and kindness has destined for our use, and by whose instrumentality he bestows the gifts of his goodness upon us, to put no confidence in them, nor to admire and extol them as the causes of our mercies;

to the contrary, we can admire and extol them because they agreed in free will to be instruments of God's grace. This is why there is a huge theme in Scripture of imitation of holy persons as models and guides to the spiritual life. St. Paul doesn't make the false dichotomy that Calvin makes. He states, rather: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1); "And you became imitators of us and of the Lord . . ." (1 Thess 1:6).

so neither ought our confidence to be fixed on the sacraments,

We should have confidence in God's promises regarding the sacraments, that go far beyond what Calvin believes of them. Calvin guts the sacraments of their most important function: conveying grace and salvation itself.

nor ought the glory of God to be transferred to them,

It's not a matter of "transfer" of anything, but of recognizing their proper function as means that God uses to spread His grace. God uses human beings (such as St. Paul) in the same way.

but passing beyond them all, our faith and confession should rise to Him who is the Author of the sacraments and of all things.

No one thinks otherwise (least of all, Catholics). But Calvin often states these truisms and utterly apparent truths as if Catholics would not accept or understand them.

13. Some regard the sacraments as mere signs. This view refuted.

There is nothing in the argument which some found on the very term sacrament. This term, they say, while it has many significations in approved authors, has only one which is applicable to signs—namely, when it is used for the formal oath which the soldier gives to his commander on entering the service. For as by that military oath recruits bind themselves to be faithful to their commander, and make a profession of military service; so by our signs we acknowledge Christ to be our commander, and declare that we serve under his standard. They add similitudes, in order to make the matter more clear. As the toga distinguished the Romans from the Greeks, who wore the pallium; and as the different orders of Romans were distinguished from each other by their peculiar insignia; e. g., the senatorial from the equestrian by purple, and crescent shoes, and the equestrian from the plebeian by a ring, so we wear our symbols to distinguish us from the profane. But it is sufficiently clear from what has been said above, that the ancients, in giving the name of sacraments to signs, had not at all attended to the use of the term by Latin writers, but had, for the sake of convenience, given it this new signification, as a means of simply expressing sacred signs. But were we to argue more subtilely, we might say that they seem to have given the term this signification in a manner analogous to that in which they employ the term faith in the sense in which it is now used. For while faith is truth in performing promises, they have used it for the certainty or firm persuasion which is had of the truth. In this way, while a sacrament is the act of the soldier when he vows obedience to his commander, they made it the act by which the commander admits soldiers to the ranks. For in the sacraments the Lord promises that he will be our God, and we that we will be his people. But we omit such subtleties, since I think I have shown by arguments abundantly plain, that all which ancient writers intended was to intimate, that sacraments are the signs of sacred and spiritual things.

This is an extraordinary claim. One can hardly read the Church fathers and conclude that they taught this. The evidence is overwhelming: the fathers (including, very much so, St. Augustine) believed in the Real, Substantial, Physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist, as many Protestant patristic scholars amply confirm. They believed in eucharistic adoration, and the sacrifice of the Mass. St. Cyril of Jerusalem's view of the Eucharist is said to be similar to Calvin's, but this claim falls flat under scrutiny as well. St. Augustine (the father that Protestants love to "co-opt" as supposedly one of their own, heartily accepted all seven Catholic sacraments.

The fathers also believed en masse in baptismal regeneration. They are united in these matters as much as they are on virtually any doctrine of theology. Respected Protestant Church historian J. N. D. Kelly writes:

It was always held to convey the remission of sins . . . the theory that it mediated the Holy Spirit was fairly general . . . The early view, therefore, like the Pauline, would seem to be that baptism itself is the vehicle for conveying the Spirit to believers; in all this period we nowhere come across any clear pointers to the existence of a separate rite, such as unction or the laying on of hands, appropriated to this purpose.

(Early Christian Doctrines, San Francisco: Harper Collins, revised edition, 1978, 194-195)

The similitudes which are drawn from external objects (chap. 15 sec. 1), we indeed admit; but we approve not, that that which is a secondary thing in sacraments is by them made the first, and indeed the only thing. The first thing is, that they may contribute to our faith in God; the secondary, that they may attest our confession before men. These similitudes are applicable to the secondary reason. Let it therefore remain a fixed point, that mysteries would be frigid (as has been seen) were they not helps to our faith, and adjuncts annexed to doctrine for the same end and purpose.

They are helps to our faith precisely because they convey grace. Yet Calvin denies this. So he in effect cuts off the limb he is standing on. He contradicts Scripture, Tradition, and the fathers alike. Yet he seems to assume that his words are sufficient to establish novel and heretical doctrines, no matter what has come before his time.

14. Some again attribute too much to the sacraments. Refutation.

On the other hand, it is to be observed, that as these objectors impair the force, and altogether overthrow the use of the sacraments, so there are others who ascribe to the sacraments a kind of secret virtue, which is nowhere said to have been implanted in them by God. By this error the more simple and unwary are perilously deceived, while they are taught to seek the gifts of God where they cannot possibly be found, and are insensibly withdrawn from God, so as to embrace instead of his truth mere vanity.

The gifts of God "cannot possibly be found" in the sacraments? This is a ludicrous assertion: contradicted at every turn by the fathers and Scripture.

For the schools of the Sophists have taught with general consent that the sacraments of the new law, in other words, those now in use in the Christian Church, justify, and confer grace, provided only that we do not interpose the obstacle of mortal sin. It is impossible to describe how fatal and pestilential this sentiment is, and the more so, that for many ages it has, to the great loss of the Church, prevailed over a considerable part of the world.

Calvin recognizes that the traditional Catholic view is very widespread (precisely my point). Yet inexplicably he condemns it. On what grounds? On what basis can he do such a thing at all, rather than accept that God was guiding His Church to reach such an overwhelming consensus? Take, for example, what the fathers taught about baptismal grace. Here is a sampling of the avalanche of citations that could be brought to bear (with "grace" bolded):

St. Clement of Alexandria

When we are baptized, we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as sons. Adopted as sons, we are made perfect. Made perfect, we become immortal . . . ‘and sons of the Most High’ [Ps. 82:6]. This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins, a gift of grace by which the punishments due our sins are remitted, an illumination by which we behold that holy light of salvation.

(The Instructor of Children 1:6:26:1 [A.D. 191])
St. Cyril of Jerusalem
If any man does not receive baptism, he does not have salvation. The only exception is the martyrs, who, even without water, will receive baptism, for the Savior calls martyrdom a baptism [Mark 10:38]. . . . Bearing your sins, you go down into the water; but the calling down of grace seals your soul and does not permit that you afterwards be swallowed up by the fearsome dragon. You go down dead in your sins, and you come up made alive in righteousness.

(Catechetical Lectures 3:10, 12 [A.D. 350])

St. Augustine

This is the meaning of the great sacrament of baptism, which is celebrated among us: all who attain to this grace die thereby to sin—as he himself [Jesus] is said to have died to sin because he died in the flesh (that is, ‘in the likeness of sin’)—and they are thereby alive by being reborn in the baptismal font, just as he rose again from the sepulcher. This is the case no matter what the age of the body. For whether it be a newborn infant or a decrepit old man—since no one should be barred from baptism—just so, there is no one who does not die to sin in baptism. Infants die to original sin only; adults, to all those sins which they have added, through their evil living, to the burden they brought with them at birth.

(Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love 13[41] [A.D. 421]).

St. Gregory of Nyssa

Since, then, that God-containing flesh partook for its substance and support of this particular nourishment also, and since the God who was manifested infused Himself into perishable humanity for this purpose, viz. that by this communion with Deity mankind might at the same time be deified, for this end it is that, by dispensation of His grace, He disseminates Himself in every believer through that flesh, whose substance comes from bread and wine, blending Himself with the bodies of believers, to secure that, by this union with the immortal, man, too, may be a sharer in incorruption. He gives these gifts by virtue of the benediction through which He transelements the natural quality of these visible things to that immortal thing.

(The Great Catechism, chapter XXXVII; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)

St. John Chrysostom

Christ is present. The One who prepared that [Holy Thursday] table is the very One who now prepares this [altar] table. For it is not a man who makes the sacrificial gifts become the Body and Blood of Christ, but He that was crucified for us, Christ Himself. The priest stands there carrying out the action, but the power and grace is of God. “This is My Body,” he says. This statement transforms the gifts.

(Homilies on the Treachery of Judas, 1, 6)

Protestant historian Philip Schaff honestly concludes:

The Catholic church, both Greek and Latin, sees in the Eucharist not only a sacramentum, in which God communicates a grace to believers, but at the same time, and in fact mainly, a sacrificium, in which believers really offer to God that which is represented by the sensible elements. For this view also the church fathers laid the foundation, and it must be conceded they stand in general far more on the Greek and Roman Catholic than on the Protestant side of this question.

(History of the Christian Church, volume 3, § 96. "The Sacrifice of the Eucharist”)

It is plainly of the devil: for, first, in promising a righteousness without faith, it drives souls headlong on destruction;

But that is not what is being promised in Catholicism. We teach that one must have faith to benefit in the fullest measure from the sacraments, and that to accept a sacrament in mortal sin is a grave matter (as even Calvin noted above).

secondly, in deriving a cause of righteousness from the sacraments, it entangles miserable minds, already of their own accord too much inclined to the earth, in a superstitious idea, which makes them acquiesce in the spectacle of a corporeal object rather than in God himself.

That doesn't follow. It's not idolatry to accept God's revealed method of distributing His grace through physical objects. The incarnation itself did that. God could have remained purely a spirit and nothing else, and could have avoided the messiness of the crucifixion. But it was the incarnation (a physical thing, not totally "spirit") that made salvation possible in the first place. Therefore, it is beyond absurd to deny that God could use physical matter to spread His grace, given the huge factor of the Incarnation itself. It's an "anti-incarnational" strain of thought.

I wish we had not such experience of both evils as to make it altogether unnecessary to give a lengthened proof of them. For what is a sacrament received without faith, but most certain destruction to the Church? For, seeing that nothing is to be expected beyond the promise, and the promise no less denounces wrath to the unbeliever than offers grace to the believer, it is an error to suppose that anything more is conferred by the sacraments than is offered by the word of God, and obtained by true faith.

This is the exact opposite of the truth: as far from it as east is from west.

From this another thing follows—viz. that assurance of salvation does not depend on participation in the sacraments, as if justification consisted in it. This, which is treasured up in Christ alone, we know to be communicated, not less by the preaching of the Gospel than by the seal of the sacrament, and may be completely enjoyed without this seal.

How odd, then, that Jesus said that whoever didn't eat His flesh and drink His blood could not be saved. How strange that Jesus said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5, KJV). How weird that St. Paul would teach: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" (Titus 3:5, KJV). If the choice in fact comes down to Jesus and Paul on one side of a question and John Calvin on the other, I hope most men will have the sense to choose our Lord and the Great Apostle.

So true is it, as Augustine declares, that there may be invisible sanctification without a visible sign, and, on the other hand, a visible sign without true sanctification (August. de Quæst. Vet. Test. Lib. 3). For, as he elsewhere says, “Men put on Christ, sometimes to the extent of partaking in the sacrament, and sometimes to the extent of holiness of life” (August. de Bapt. Cont. Donat. cap. 24). The former may be common to the good and the bad, the latter is peculiar to the good.

This doesn't overcome the dozens of statements he made about sacraments that prove the Catholic point. As usual, Calvin cites a few things that appear to support his heretical case, and ignores mountainous piles of evidence that refute him. That is hardly an honest or straightforward way of dealing with anything. Unless a person's entire thought is taken into consideration, one can always find isolated prooftexts to "prove" just about anything. This unsavory citation method, sadly, typifies the efforts of many anti-Catholic Protestants to this day.